Secularism to Radicalism – The Indian Odyssey
In June this year, a lynching video of a young Muslim boy went viral on social media. The video showed the boy tied up, hands folded and bleeding copiously while crying and begging for mercy. The lynching mob forced the boy to chant “Jai Hanuman” and “Jai Shri Ram” (glory to the lord Hanuman and Shri Ram). Afterward, the police identified the boy as 24-year-old Tabrez Ansari from the state of Jharkhand. He was beaten for hours by the fanatic Hindu mob before succumbing to his wounds and dying. The boy left a young wife who only got to live for two months with her husband. Such acts of mob justice have become common since Modi’s BJP rose to power in 2014. Ansari was the first victim of Modi’s second term. His wife asks who can she rely on for justice now?
After independence, India’s founding father Gandhi and its first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru played a very significant role in establishing a secular constitution to bind the diverse ethnic, religious and linguistic groups under the union. The constitution, enacted in 1950, was designed on Gandhi’s secular principles that advocated for helping suffering communities and sections of society regardless of their religion, caste, and language. For this advocacy, Gandhi was assassinated in 1948 by Nathuram Godse, a Hindu nationalist and a member of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). Godse declared Gandhi a traitor who yielded to Muslims and divided the land that should have been under the Hindu control. Every year since Gandhi’s assassination, India has been drifting away from Gandhi’s principles.
Nathuram Godse learned this ideology of the Hindu supremacist nation-state from RSS. Veer Savarkar gave the concept of the Hindu nation-state built upon the idea of Hindutva in 1923. Two years later, in 1925, an upper cast Hindu Keshav Hedgawar founded the RSS to give practical reality to the idea of Savarkar. The RSS aims to make religious boundaries as national ones where Muslims and Christians are considered illegitimate foreign presence. Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) is the political arm of the RSS. It rose to prominence after the demolition of Babri mosque by the Hindu mob in 1992. It is also a very well-known fact that Modi rose as a worker of RSS and still has his membership in the organization.
Modi has been trying to present himself as the “new father of the nation.” This is being done according to a well thought out strategy that aims to undermine the ideology of Mahatma Gandhi’s secularism and replace it with religious nationalism. Modi frequently invokes Gandhi’s saying to add weight to his decisions that are considered controversial. Just this past week, Modi refused to sign 16 country trade pact known as RCEP. The trade agreement had China, Japan, South Korea, and Australia among other members. All member countries except India agreed to sign the deal but Modi, sighting Gandhi’s saying of protecting the weak and marginalized in India, refused to sign. Gradually, Gandhi’s statue and pictures are being changed with that of Modi. Mahatma’s sayings are also being replaced with generic slogans. For instance, Apple’s “Think Different” slogan has been a prominent fixture in this regard and now it can be seen frequently on billboards and wall chalking in India.
Modi’s ideological party RSS holds special resentment against Muslims as it considers them outsiders that ruled over India for more than a thousand years. Therefore, ever since Modi’s rise to power, Muslims have been the most aggrieved minority in India. They are being denied basic rights in all aspects of life. Under Modi, Muslim recruitment for government and bureaucratic job posts has substantially gone down. It is the first time in the history of India that the ruling BJP party didn’t give party ticket to even a single Muslim candidate. And even when the Muslim member of parliaments from opposition ranks came to swear the oath, BJP’s members shouted slogans of “Jai Shri Ram” to remind them of their faith.
In August this year, Modi personally took the banner of Muslim prosecution in India when he took the statehood status from the only Muslim state of Jammu and Kashmir and reduced it to a mere union territory under Delhi’s direct control. For three months now, Kashmiri’s are living in a jail-like situation. There are around 900000 Indian troops posted in the Kashmir valley, placing a soldier in front of every house. Media and international observers have been barred from visiting the valley. There are reports of violent protests and killings daily. According to the Human rights watch, there is a serious shortage of food and medicine in the Kashmir valley. If this decision was made to open Kashmir to investment then why Modi has had the place under lockdown ever since. Who would want to invest in an area that has been under curfew for more than three months now?
Pakistan’s response after the August incident has been remarkably measured, and it has taken India by surprise as well. India was expecting Pakistan to either go full-on Kinetic escalation or to give knee jerk reaction to article 370’s abrogation. But instead, Pakistan has built an outstanding diplomatic campaign to counter the Indian strategy. PM Imran Khan’s brilliant speech at the United Nations General assembly (UNGA) highlighted the atrocities of Modi’s government in the Kashmir. PM Khan also highlighted the similarities in the ideology of the Nazi party and the RSS. Ever since that speech, the international media and human rights watchdogs have been raising voice in support of the Kashmiri people.
In years ahead, Hindu majoritarianism is expected to get more popular in India, keeping the slide of Indian society from a secular one to a radical on track. A society where marginalized keep getting repressed is bound to disintegrate after reaching its boiling point. Therefore, before letting the situation reach an irreversible position, the International community must raise its voice and play its part to at least try to keep things from getting worse. The international community must also point out Modi’s silence to hate in his country. Among Chants of “Gao Mata” and “Jai Shri Ram” to provoke hate against minorities, India’s inclusive secularism has been taken over by the Hindu radicalism. The Slogan, “Gandhi, Godse and Gao Mata” truly defines this Indian journey from secularism to radicalism.
About the Author: Miss. Sidra Insar is a graduate from Quaid-e-Azam University, Islamabad and is currently working as an educationist in the Government of Pakistan. Her area of interest is Political Dynamics of States and International Relations.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are authors own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of The Reader’s Review.